“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.” -Gertrude Stein
Six years ago I wrote my first blog post ever about a little coffee shop here in Lowell that I never thought would become this close to my heart. Over the years Brew’d Awakening Coffehaus or as its more intimately known to us here in Lowell, “Brew’d”, has become a microcosm of our community at large. From open mic nights to space for art, love, peace it is more than just a coffee shop, it is a place for all to feel welcome and for all to let their voices be heard.
I had the chance to sit down with Andy Jacobson, the owner and main coffee guy for a physically distant sit down chat to talk about the evolution of Brew’d throughout the years. We discussed food, travel, coffee, cocktails ( YES cocktails, more on that later) and so much more. I hope you’ll take some time to read through and continue to support our local coffee shops and understand that its more than just coffee, its community.
Q & A with Andy Jacobson:
Q: Andy, you’ve been open for 15 years today, how have you evolved as a business?
A: Well we obviously have improved with maturity, just like a kid does. Would I say that we are 100% perfect, no but we have continuously learned, I mean after all we are human and humans run this business. The business and industry are continuously evolving and overall I feel that we’ve done a great job at accomplishing our goal of being a staple in Downtown Lowell.
Q: What was your thought process in opening Brew’d and what was your background before opening the coffee shop?
A: I was in the financial industry, working at Putnam Investments with no coffeeshop experience and didn’t even drink coffee ( GASP) I was a tea drinker. I wanted to do something community-based, and originally I was going through the non-profit route, but that didn’t happen. I was in love with the idea of the old coffee shop concept where people came and met people, talked, debated but left as friends. I started the process of what city I wanted to be in, location, and what I needed to do to start everything off.
Q: Let’s talk about your process for roasting your beans in house
A: We do roast our own beans now, but when we started we bought our beans from Equal Exchange for about 11 years. Almost 4 years ago I decided to take that next step and roast our own beans.
Q: Where do you get your beans from?
A: I have four roasts right now; our Nicaraguan ( the Poet), the Ethiopean which is our darkest roast ( The Painter), our Costa Rican ( the Photographer) which is used for our cold brew, and I now have our Indian ( the Puppeteer) which is in between and closer to the roasts of the Photographer. These two create a mix into our espresso.
I am looking into getting a Vietnamese bean and traveled there, but that’s still pending. I also had a Cambodian bean up until last year but I am trying to find some new sources for these beans.
- Note about the “Art of Coffee” which is personal branding that Andy created to have a Lowell offering. Andy wanted to pay homage to the artists in the city of Lowell with this branding.
Q: How would you say people reacted and how did the coffee change when you switched from getting beans from Equal Exchange and then roasting in house?
A: The overall reaction was good, and of course took some getting used to. More so from a consistency perspective and we tried a few different things to get it right. Overall its good and I would say our dark roast is very popular. Most of the Ethiopian beans I’ve come across are a darker roast and I wanted to try doing them in a light roast way. This also gave me the opportunity to experiment more and allowed me to go to some coffee farms and have a vacation. 🙂
Q: What are some things that have done really well on the menu and others that you’ve had to change?
A: Well a lot of our starting sandwiches have continued to stay on the menu. The only sandwich that didn’t make it on the current menu was “Le Mystery” which was one of our turkey sandwiches. The bagel sandwiches have been on the menu for a while, the Abraham was one that was added later – even though I’m Jewish I am not a lox person, but we kept getting requests for it, and now its a success. The Acai bowls are newer, about three-four years old and then the Persuasion sandwich is also newer about three years ago.
So our menu has definitely changed, remember at the very beginning we were buying bagels, sandwiches and baked goods. But then we moved to get pre-baked stuff and then moved to make sandwiches in house and then to doing most of the baking myself and bringing someone else on to that eventually.
Q: What was your thought process in bringing in cocktails to the menu and how has that gone?
A: Well we wanted to do something a little different but also not losing the coffee shop vibe and I went back and forth on that quite a bit. When I decided that yes I would bring them in, I thought its a good experiment and there is just so much you can do with tea and coffee. So all our drinks are coffee and tea inspired – so you won’t find run of the mill cocktails when you come here. You won’t find a rum and coke but you will find a Coffee Rum Latte, Irish Coffee, etc. We also do have some beers that we offer as well.
I wish I could say that it has gone better, but I think right now its more of people don’t think of Brew’d when they think of grabbing a cocktail. They still think of us as just coffee and tea so I think it’s going to take a bit more time before people get used to the idea.
- *Writer’s note: Personally, the idea of tea and coffee-inspired cocktails has always been incredibly cool to me. There is so much you can do with tea and coffee and often mixing them into a good rich cocktail is incredible. Wait until you see the photos Mavens!
One thing to add is that I am hoping with the new state order of restaurants being able to do “to-go” cocktails that I can let people know that this is here and it’s happening, especially for those who asked if they could take them to go before it was finalized. 🙂
Q: When Covid-19 first hit what went through your mind about your business?
A: First and foremost I just saw the sales numbers drop. From a number up high we were used to, to some really low number. It started to feel like year one all over again. I ended up furloughing most of the staff, except those who opened and closed. We changed our hours right away, closing at 3 pm instead of our usual 9 pm. This all happened within a week of the closure but it only ended up lasting for a month or so because we got the PPP and brought everyone back. It was very slow for a while and it was eerie.
We had to get in line for tables and tents because all over the country cities were reopening. So finding tables was super hard but I managed to find them.
Q: The street section that you now have for patio season, how long is open till?
A: I have it until the end of the sidewalk season this year, which is in November. We will have to figure out what to do then because right now I have 8-10 seats inside from my usual 25-30. So I am going to just keep trying to figure that out since we moved a lot of our seating outdoors because of the Pandemic.
Final Question: How has your community-supported you? Have you felt that support?
A: Yeah, yeah. through the whole thing, either people who were coming in, making calls, placing orders, or people buying the Noreast Pandemic support t-shirts its been great.
I want to take a moment to thank Andy for his time and for allowing me to interview him. I hope you all enjoyed it. Before I get into all the incredible photos please see some reminders:
- Online ordering is now available, you can order via their website and pickup
- To-go cocktails are now allowed, so please order all your Irish coffee’s, coffee rum latte’s mai tea’s and more please 🙂
The below photos are an array I have taken over the last several months several before social distancing and Covid-19.
Butter tart, tea, latte & magic bar
Mai Tea & Frozen cocktails
An assortment of our iced drinks and some smiling local faces.
In focus, Nutella cheesecake bar and Hot Toddy Cocktail
Cheering with cocktails
Muffins and Coffee forever
Andy drinking some of their famous cold brew 🙂
As always Mavens, support local and go get your caffeine and cocktail fix from Brew’d.
Life as a Maven